*Big thank you to my friend Kelly Booy for agreeing to contribute to the “28 days of love” project!*
I have had a consistent prayer for contentment these last couple of years! My awareness of this need came one summer day in 2009 while on a walk in the Dutch farmlands. A quiet, picturesque moment on a bench overlooking Kinderdijk’s windmills was interrupted by a pesky bird. In the midst of worship, I found myself wiping away bird poop from my temple and hair!! Striking me as funny and strangely appropriate, I could not hold back the giggles. It was an intimate message as strange as the delivery. I couldn’t shake the imagery, sweet silence and the words that came to mind, “Even in this mess you are dearly loved and cared for.”
The years following could be described as a roller coaster. My family and I made the decision to move back to Arkansas, September of 2009, after spending two years of our life in Holland. My husband had gone back to school in the country of his birth, receiving an International MBA, our two small children had learned some of the language and culture, and we had connected with family and made new friends. It was an amazing experience with many highlights and some obstacles, but overall we were super thankful. In thinking about moving back to Arkansas, I knew that I would struggle with contentment. I would even venture to say that there was an underlying fear of the mundane–like walking down the mountain into a valley.
Within the year following our return to central Arkansas, we had bought a car, a substantially sized home, and thankfully had a job! We settled into a church that we loved and were challenged every day by the Gospel, a simple message: While we were still sinners Christ died. We were surrounded by dear friends and making many new ones. Life was good.
Soon we were staring unemployment down; contemplating selling the home we loved because we couldn’t afford (it) to get it to the state we wanted, nursing a torn Achilles tendon, had a shingles flair up, facing impending student loans, medical bills, a second round of unemployment , professional rejections, car issues, etc . . . Needless to say our faith was tried, and we were feeling seriously helpless, anxious, and humbled.
My prayer for contentment had taken an interesting twist, and honestly I can’t say that it was what I had wanted and/or expected! My perspective was skewed, and I was doubting the truth that God was my provider. Slowly I started to notice the little things, like: we had never gone without food, we had clothes and shoes, we were able to continue making our mortgage payments, and those gentle offers of help from friends and family. Literally, every time I turned our ignition in our car I would say, “thank you God!” I realize that this might sound a little “third world”, but truly God was doing a great work in my heart. It became glaringly obvious that God was providing.
We welcomed our third child in August of 2011, Emma Jeanne Booy,. . . 10 days prior to losing our insurance due to our second job loss. Strangely, the period of time following Emmy’s birth has been some of the sweetest I have ever experienced in my life to date. (I had all but convinced myself that I would struggle with postpartum depression after the birth of Emmy.) Stefan was home rigorously job hunting and working contract work on the side. He had time to take morning walks with me and the baby. We sipped our morning coffee and shared difficult, intimate conversations. Those months were profoundly precious and healing when they should have, by all circumstantial appearances, been shrouded with worry and fear. I secretly began to praise God in the midst of the messiness. My emotional state was more than intact, and I began to see glimmers of what it means to “give thanks in all circumstances.”
As I reflect over these last several years I am completely dumbfounded and thankful for the roller coaster. My hope and prayer is that I never lose this realization– my “satisfaction or contentment” is not directly related to my situation or comfort.
The pesky bird might have shat on my head, but I can wipe off the mess all the while knowing I am dearly loved and cherished.